After moving south of the border for his second novel (The Geography of Desire, 1989), Boswell heads back home to take a leisurely look at a divided American family (the same territory as in Crooked Hearts, 1987). It's 1971. Stephen and Angela Landis, newlyweds from suburban Chicago, are buying a farm in Iowa. They are in ecstasy over their purchase, boundlessly confident in their young love. Why, then, six years later, does Angela end the ``mystery ride'' of their marriage, splitting for California with their little girl Dulcie? The question will haunt both of them, for neither will find such good loving again, even though Angela has a happy second marriage to theatrical agent Quin Vorda, an affectionate if unfaithful spouse. The breakup will also spell trouble for Dulcie, who in 1987 (when most of the story is set) has become such a difficult teenager that Angela sends her back to the Iowa farm for the summer. Dulcie is just as hostile with Stephen, even killing one of his cows; and though other characters are rearranging their lives (Stephen's new woman, Leah, moves to the farm with her daughter, Roxanne, another 15-year-old who will be made pregnant by the born- again neighbor's son), Dulcie upstages them all--until her friend Rox's pregnancy goes awry and she is shocked into righteousness. Her long scream of pain, however, distracts us from that central question; the answer, evidently, is that Angela split when the farm, originally a larky youthful experiment, became a prison, a denial of possibilities. People change--the conclusion is as banal as that. And because Stephen and Angela are somewhat dull, this becomes one of those novels that's liveliest at its edges, where the minor characters act up a storm.